Monday, 19 January 2015

The Dog - Joseph O'Neill

Review by M

The Dog was longlisted for the Man Booker 2014.

I never thought I'd ever sympathise with a Dubai-based westerner, but The Dog proved me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and would especially recommend it to anyone who's ever/never worked/lived in or visited Dubai or who wrestles with moral dilemmas and ethics. Anyone who likes ink stamps or letter seals may well enjoy this too.

The narrator and main character is an American lawyer wallowing in the aftermath of a newly broken romantic relationship and has taken a very cushy looking job as a lawyer to a super-duper rich Lebanese family based in Dubai. The plot follows his related trials and tribulations, with some very drawn out internal debates (some readers may find these sections tedious but I quite enjoyed reading them).

Threaded through this plot are a series of interconnected master and servant relationships, as our naive narrator comes to realise. The realisation about the extended metaphor of the dog - for me (and perhaps for the narrator too) - was at times funny (sometimes very) but over-ridingly sad. Oh, what a loveable but frustrating character O'Neill has created.

The direction of the plot is slightly predictable, which adds to the sense of frustration, although the ending was not what I expected - though very plausible.

A review in The Guardian suggested that The Dog is too similar in many ways to O'Neill's earlier novel Neverland. I haven't read Neverland but I enjoyed The Dog so much, I'm happy to search out some more-of-the-same or even better in his other work.

Publication details: Fourth Estate, 2014, London
This copy: digital copy for review from the publisher

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